When Bill reached the Barracks he was admitted, after some wait, to the Colonel's office. Atkinson was not any more pleasant or congenial than he had been when Bill was here before. The man seemed to take comfort in barking orders, and Bill wondered for a moment if that's what a man needed to make it in the new military, a stubborn will to be unhappy. Atkinson asked on his progress, and he was ashamed to admit that there hadn't been any to speak of. The Colonel tried unsuccessfully to curb his temper, but it was no secret to Bill that he wasn't exactly in the Colonel's best graces at the moment. Bill made mention that some of the soldiers in the Barracks had spoken to Katherine, they told her that they thought her brother had gone west on the surveying expedition with Bonneville. The Colonel seemed somewhat relieved by this news, and Bill took it as a sign of better things to come.
"If the young lady wishes to follow her brother to the wilds of the West, so be it," said the Colonel, gruffly.
"But Sir, if I am to understand what you told me yesterday…" started Bill.
"Soldier, listen to me. I will not have good soldiers' names tarnished for what amounts to nothing more than a rash act. If Miss McInnis believes that her answers are to be found with Bonneville, let her believe that. She will be far from harm and far from harming anyone else. Do what you have to, but stop her before good men are ruined. Do you understand your duty, Soldier?"
Bill nodded his assent to the Colonel but for the love of God could not understand the reasoning. How could leading Katherine in the wrong direction be the best for all involved? He'd sworn his allegiance to the government long before he'd met Miss McInnis, but he was cleanly torn between them.
Bill returned to the heart of town just in time to see Dixie La Fleur leaving for her Thursday outing. The woman looks almost respectable thought Bill as he dismounted and led his horse into the barn. When he saw Dixie come into the barn and begin to talk to the stable hand, he instinctively crouched down and held his breath the listen. I knew that whore was up to something the minute I seen her he thought. The fact that Dixie had spoken to Katherine for hours on end was bad enough, but now this stable boy was about to tell Katherine the truth about her brother's whereabouts? It made Bill's blood boil.
He waited until he heard Dixie leave before he exited the stall. The stable hand seemed startled at first, seeing Bill pop out of nowhere was unnerving enough, and even yet he remained uneasy as Bill spoke to him about generalities; the weather, the horses. He asked the hand about Dixie, innocently enough he thought, but the stable hand wasn't biting. He asked politely about whether the hand had seen Miss McInnis today, and wasn't it a shame about her brother going missing. As he talked and talked, the man grew pale. He finally flat out refused to speak-- other than saying he'd wait to speak to Miss McInnis himself-- and turned to go back to his work. When the stable hand, wasn't his name John? No, Joe? thought Bill, nervously turned his back to attend to one of his charges, Bill grabbed the pitchfork leaning against the wall and pushed it clean through him.